A Call for Change To Help Cancer Survivors, Others With Chronic Disease

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Livingwell2.jpgEditor's Note: A new report today from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies addresses improving the health of people with chronic illnesses. Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Behavioral Science, is one of 17 experts nationally who co-authored the report.

By Karen Basen-Engquist

In fighting the war on cancer, emphasis has been placed on detecting disease early and, hopefully, curing it. Many battles have been won, and because of this we have more than 12 million Americans living today who have had a previous diagnosis of cancer. 

While those gains are to be celebrated, many cancer survivors suffer from after effects of treatment, or undergo extended treatment over a period of years to keep their disease in check.

In essence, cancer is becoming a more chronic condition, a fact acknowledged by the ground-breaking 2005 Institute of Medicine report From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition, which documented the experiences of cancer survivors after treatment, and the gaps in the health care system which often resulted in a failure to properly address survivors' problems and concerns.

Since then, MD Anderson and other centers have worked to address the needs of cancer survivors in health care settings. 

A new IOM report released today, Living Well with Chronic Illness: A Call for Public Health Action, draws attention to the need to help cancer survivors and others with chronic illnesses manage their disease effectively, reduce complications, prevent additional health problems, and optimize their health.

The report recognizes that helping individuals "live well" requires collaboration of the medical care and public health care systems, as well as community-based organizations, employers, the news media, and the academic community.

Seventeen recommendations are made, including:
  • Development of state-level comprehensive population-based strategic plans that focus on the management of chronic illness
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of community and clinical preventive services for persons with chronic illness, and development of guidelines
  • Evaluation of existing and emerging/new models of chronic disease care, and development of new financing streams and incentives to support and disseminate effective models 
  • Funding of research on the adoption and maintenance of healthy lifestyles and effective preventive services in persons with chronic illness
  • Development of evidence-based policy goals aimed at decreasing the burden of suffering and improving the quality of life of persons living with chronic illness
As the U.S. population ages, and predisposing conditions such as obesity increase, the population of individuals with chronic illnesses will continue to grow. Optimizing health of this group is a complex challenge, and will require a coordinated effort with participation of multiple sectors of society. 

Download a free pdf.

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